Filming is underway here in Korea this week on a short feature on the life and death of Pastor Han Chung Ryeol, as seen through the eyes of one of the many North Koreans he evangelized. Pastor Han was the Korean Chinese pastor martyred in Changbai, China on April 30, 2016.
Thanks to the vision and sponsorship of Cole Richards and our sister mission, VOM/US, John and Judy Grooters and Grooters Productions are here to make the 6 minute film. It will be shown around the world in commemoration of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church the first Sunday in November. The Grooters produced the 2018 full-length feature film, Tortured for Christ, which tells the true story of Voice of the Martyrs founder, the Rev. Richard Wurmbrand. That film has won numerous awards, and if you’ve seen it you will need no explanation as to why.
North Korea sought to silence Pastor Han through a violent death, but now God is raising up his voice and testimony to be heard around the world by millions of people who otherwise likely would never have heard his name. “You meant it for evil…but God intended it for good…”
To have a producer-director the caliber of John Grooters here to make this movie is exciting. We are seeing audiences in Korea respond enthusiastically to the Tortured for Christ movie, which VOM/US enabled Voice of the Martyrs Korea to bring to Korea with Korean subtitled and dubbed versions. In many ways this Pastor Han video, though much shorter, can have an even greater impact than the Tortured for Christ movie because tens of thousands of churches globally that will show this specially-designated “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church” official video on the same day: November 3, 2019.
For Dr. Foley and me, the opportunity to share an episode from the life of Pastor Han with Christians around the world is especially gratifying. Pastor Han was our long-time friend and discipleship base leader. Though he died on April 30, 2016, in many ways his martyrdom actually happened two months earlier, when he was in our office in Seoul. He, Dr. Foley, and I knew that if he went back to Changbai he would certainly be kidnapped, or worse. We talked about whether it would be better for him to remain here, or for us to relocate his family.
But for Pastor Han there was no question: He would return home, following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. If he did not care for them, who would?
When he walked out of our office that day, he knew what lay ahead. He faced it as he faced everything in all the years we knew him: Calmly, simply, and without hesitation. When he was killed, they took his life. But even though they stabbed him over and over again, they could not erase the look of peace from his face.
Dr. Foley and I were honored to be asked by Cole and VOM/US to work with John and Judy to ensure the accuracy of the movie down to the smallest detail. From kitchen furnishings to clothing, from Pastor Han’s limp and piercing eyes to the North Korean dialect and accent of the supporting cast, John and Judy listened to Dr. Foley’s first-hand experience and subject matter expertise, and together they nailed it. We wanted a film that would enable viewers worldwide to get an absolutely accurate glimpse of something they’ve never seen before: underground church life in North Korea, and the story of the pastor whose work in leading many North Koreans to Christ continues to bear fruit to this day.
The best part is, the video will be distributed not only to churches around the world but also to underground Christians around the world…including in North Korea. Through our own VOMK network, on SD cards, MP4 devices, and even via balloon launch into North Korea, the North Korean government will see that not only did they not silence Pastor Han, but they raised up his voice and his witness to encourage persecuted Christians around the world to imitate his faithfulness, and to challenge Christians everywhere to obey Hebrews 13:3: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Filming will finish by the end of this week. Grooters Productions will then return to the United States for post-production and editing work. The short film will then be translated into many languages and made available through each national VOM office to churches to show on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 3. Contact the Voice of the Martyrs office in your country for more information. Korean churches interested in showing the video and obtaining other resources to commemorate the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church can contact us at 02-2065-0703 or via email at [email protected].